Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts on California, Part 2

Before going to California last week, I was told by several who had already been there that driving on L.A. freeways was, to put it kindly, adventurous. I wasn't particularly worried about this; since I have relatives who live in NYC, I have driven there on many occasions—and that could be described as "adventurous," too.

We put nearly three hundred miles on that Mustang we rented (see Part 1, below); of course, much of that was on freeways. Here are some observations:

  • The basic driving manners of LA and NYC drivers are essentially equal: Inconsistent use of turn signals, quasi-random lane changes, general desire to go as fast as possible, etc. The primary difference between the two is that LA drivers have more room to maneuver. Many LA freeways have 5-6 lanes in each direction; NYC is generally limited to 3.
  • Traffic jams are common in both cities and can happen on any freeway at any time.
  • Parking in either city is not cheap.
  • Los Angeles: 300 miles, no tolls. Enough said.
  • The most obvious difference? The typical NYC car is a beater—if it gets a few new scratches today, it will annoy the owner but not otherwise affect his day too much. [There are in NYC the exceptional sports cars, BMW's, etc, but they are indeed exceptions.] The typical LA car is much newer, and scratches on it would probably trigger severe unhappiness. There is a much higher percentage of newer cars, convertibles, sports cars, etc. in LA. I also think there are more foreign cars, too. VW bugs seemed ubiquitous.
  • Second most obvious difference: LA motorcyclists are more common, and will generally carve out a lane between lanes, passing between two vehicles not 4 feet apart to get by them, if so desired...and it seemed a frequent desire at any speed less than the speed limit. NYC motorcyclists recognize that this is a sure path to suicide, and generally only do it if the traffic is it does happen somewhat regularly, come to think of it.

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